British Prime Minister Liz Truss announced on Thursday she was stepping down, just over six weeks after taking the Conservative Party reins as leader.
Truss's short tenure was marked by shock over the government's mini-budget, which roiled British markets, and internal party dissension leading to cabinet departures and backbenchers expressing a lack of confidence in their new leader.
Truss said that, "given the situation, I cannot deliver the mandate on which I was elected by the Conservative Party."
Another Conservative leadership contest will take place within a week, Truss said in a short statement outside the prime minister's residence at 10 Downing Street. She will stay on until then.
It will be the fourth such contest for the party since David Cameron stepped down in the wake of a referendum that saw British voters support an exit from the European Union.
'Tory clown car'
The development came just a day after Truss expressed her desire to stay on after apologizing for the tumultuous start to her leadership, saying she was "a fighter and not a quitter."
Kwasi Kwarteng, the government's finance minister, resigned last week after his so-called mini-budget announcement of Sept. 23 roiled the markets for its level of government borrowing during a time of economic uncertainty. It also angered opposition parties for its tax breaks for the very wealthiest.
Jeremy Hunt replaced Kwarteng and on Monday pledged to scrap most of that mini-budget, which originally had Truss's full-throated support.
Interior minister Suella Braverman left cabinet Wednesday after a rules breach, but in her departing letter expressed "concerns about the direction of this government."
"The business of government relies upon people accepting responsibility for their mistakes," Braverman wrote.
An effort by Truss supporters to shore up her standing ahead of a fracking vote on Wednesday was seen by some MPs as heavy-handed and exacerbated the government's crisis, some MPs said.
Conservative lawmaker Charles Walker told the BBC it was "a shambles and a disgrace."
"I hope that all those people that put Liz Truss [in office], I hope it was worth it," he told the BBC. "I hope it was worth it to sit around the cabinet table, because the damage they have done to our party is extraordinary."
The party has also taken a drubbing in the press. Newspapers that usually support the Conservatives were vitriolic. An editorial in the Daily Mail was headlined, "The wheels have come off the Tory clown car."
Leadership vote details to follow
Truss held a hastily arranged meeting Thursday with Graham Brady, a senior Conservative lawmaker who oversees leadership challenges through the 1922 Committee of MPs. Brady was tasked with assessing whether the prime minister still has the support of Tory members of Parliament.
Brady promised more clarity later Thursday on yet another leadership contest.
"It's certainly not a circumstance I would wish to see," he told a scrum of reporters.
There was a "pretty broad consensus" for a greatly shortened process to determine the next leader, Brady added.
In her statement, Truss said a brief contest would "ensure that we remain on a path to deliver our fiscal plans and maintain our country's economic stability and national security."
The short-lived honeymoon for Truss effectively ended on Sept. 23, when Kwarteng's planned 45 billion pounds ($70 billion Cdn) in unfunded tax cuts sparked turmoil on financial markets, hammering the value of the pound and increasing the cost of U.K. government borrowing. The Bank of England was forced to intervene to prevent the crisis from spreading to the wider economy and putting pension funds at risk.
On Monday, Kwarteng's replacement, Hunt, scrapped almost all of Truss's tax cuts, along with her flagship energy policy and her promise of no public spending cuts. He said the government will need to save billions of pounds and there are "many difficult decisions" to be made before he sets out a medium-term fiscal plan on Oct. 31.
The Conservatives have been in power since 2010. Since Cameron's resignation six years later, Britain has seen three prime ministers installed before the greater public had a chance to weigh in: Truss, Boris Johnson and Theresa May.
May would eventually win a closer-than-expected election in 2017 over Jeremy Corbyn, but paid the price for protracted negotiations with the EU over the Brexit departure. The strong-willed Johnson helped deliver Brexit and earned an overwhelming mandate with a late 2019 election rout that led to Corbyn's removal as Labour leader.
But Johnson's disorganized governing style and allegations of pandemic rule-breaking whittled away his internal support within the party until he was forced to step aside earlier this year.
Truss won the resultant summer leadership race to succeed him over finalist Rishi Sunak, though a majority of party MPs and grandees supported Sunak, the one-time finance minister under Johnson. Grassroots party members favoured Truss to a significant degree.
Truss was formally installed as prime minister on Sept. 6, meeting with Queen Elizabeth just a few days before the monarch's death.
Opposition Leader Keir Starmer of the Labour Party called for Truss's resignation this week and demanded an immediate election so the British public could help determine the path forward as the country confronts a number of issues, including the highest inflation rate since the early 1980s, at 10.1 per cent, according to the latest economic report Wednesday.
"The Tories cannot respond to their latest shambles by yet again simply clicking their fingers and shuffling the people at the top without the consent of the British people," Starmer said in a new statement after the resignation.
It was inevitable Liz Truss would have to go after all the damage she's inflicted - but merely swapping leaders of a broken and chaotic Tory government is not enough.<br><br>There must now be a general election. People will accept nothing less.—@Ianblackford_MP
Scottish National Party leader Ian Blackford concurred, tweeting that "merely swapping leaders of a broken and chaotic Tory government is not enough."
French President Emmanuel Macron, apprised of the development in Brussels on Thursday, said it was important that Britain finds "stability as soon as possible."
"On a personal level, I am always sad to see a colleague go," he added.
U.S. President Joe Biden in off-the-cuff remarks to reporters in Washington praised Truss as a "good partner" on support for Ukraine as it fights off a Russian invasion.
With files from the Associated Press